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CHAPTER IX
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SPIRITUAL HEAD OF THE MUHAMMEDANS
I WAS curious to know the authoritative answers to a number of questions upon Islam about which I had formed my own notions, based upon the rough guide of experience, but upon which I did not know the exact rulings of the Prophet and his book. So I took my way to His Eminence the Sheikh el Islam, the man who presides over the headquarters of the religion in Egypt under the rounded minarets and battlemented walls of El Azhar Mosque-University. His personal name is Sheikh Moustapha el Maraghi, and the institution of which he is Grand Rector is venerable with a thousand years of authority as the Muhammedan centre whose word on questions of faith and creed is final. He is a man of pontifical powers. It is true that Arabia holds the Holy Stone, the Kaaba of Mecca, the Sacred Place to which every devout Muslim hopes to make pilgrimage one day; nevertheless, it is Egypt which holds the Living Stone, the brain and nerve-centre of Islam. The Grand Rector is not only the chief dignitary of Islam in Egypt, but, because of the international character of El Azhar, an authority for other countries as well. At El Azhar the pride of Muslims, the deeper aspects of the religion have been taught since its early days to those who wish to perfect themselves in its doctrines, and who wish to understand in complete detail the message of their revelator, Muhammed.
"The Qiiran^ rightly read, encourages scientific researches into the knowledge of God and of the universe," said Sheikh el Maraghi to me during the interview recorded below. "There is no science which can be foreign to the Creator and His creation, and nothing in any which can be contrary to the precepts of Islam. And the question faces us of purifying our religion of superstitious and fantastic interpretations. These studies assist us to do so. It is to the interests of Islam in this
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